Meet One of the Oldest Black Farmers in the American South
Dori Sanders’ 250 acres has been in the family for more than 100 years
Tucked away on a single-lane stretch of Filbert Highway in Filbert, South Carolina, lies one of the oldest Black-owned farms in the South. Almost every Friday and Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, you’ll find Ms. Dori Sanders sitting out under the aging roadside peach stand at Sanders Farm.
When you see Sanders, who is 85, you’ll be instantly amazed to know that she is still physically able to farm land and actively engage in the selling of her produce. While she’s very lively, she’s a petite woman, mostly due to aging. She spends most of the day sitting in a chair under the shaded part of her stand.
The South Carolina farmer still cranks up her tractors each season to ride over the more than 250 acres of land she owns, along with her brother Orestus.
The farm has been in the family for more than a century. Dori’s father, Marion Sanders, set out to own his own land in 1915.
For years, Marion’s family sharecropped for a South Carolina landowner. According to an adaption of an address given by Dori Sanders at the 2004 Southern Foodways Alliance annual symposium, sharecropping was a harsh way of life for her father. Her father’s father, a freed slave, didn’t own anything. Instead they were left to the mercy of landowners.
This affected Dori’s father deeply. The fact that Blacks could not own land in the south, post slavery, was something that he longed would change. In 1870, the South Carolina Land Commission offered land to freed Blacks in a small community about 100 miles Southeast from York County, the county in which Marion and his parents lived. These freed Blacks were able to purchase land for as little as $10 per acre, with the promise to work and pay off the rest.
This opportunity didn’t make its way to York County until over 40 years later. Marion was determined to purchase land and a home for his parents so that they could plant and grow their own crops.
With the help of a loan from White landowners in the area, according to a 1921 deed recorded by York County, Marion Sanders was able to purchase his first 81 acres of…